Headlines: October 11th, 2004

Ballot papers will go to UNISON members in the National Health Service this week with a recommendation that they vote to accept the new pay and conditions package that has been labelled Agenda for Change. The ballot will give the 450,000 health members the final say on whether the deal goes ahead.The voting papers will go out from Wednesday with members having until November 5th to make their decision. The result will be announced three days later. UNISON delegates from across the country voted overwhelmingly to recommend a yes vote in the ballot.

If the package is accepted it will see changes that, it is claimed, will be the biggest shake up in pay and conditions in the NHS since it was created. About a million staff will be affected by new pay bands and harmonised terms and conditions for health service workers.

Dave Prentis, General Secretary of UNISON said Agenda for Change had been the subject of long and intense negotiations. Its central element is a new minimum wage in the NHS of just over 11,000 pounds, which Mr. Prentis said was a great breakthrough for the union’s lowest paid members, many of them women.

Last week the Health Minister, John Hutton, announced that an extra 30 million pounds was to be made available to the NHS to help the implementation of Agenda for Change. The money will go towards compensation for NHS organisations for the time staff spend negotiating or implementing Agenda for Change, allowing them, for example, to employ locums for the time staff are involved in sitting on job evaluation boards or negotiating local implementation deals.